The Tears of a Clown

Now if there's a smile upon my face…

A pictorial guide to my favourite bike ride

The good news…and the bad news. A few months ago in the depths of winter I had my bike stolen. It was a nice bike, 27-speed Japanese gearing and all that, probably well over-qualified for my generally undemanding recreational needs of tootling round the local village lanes in the dog days of summer. Fortunately, I have been recompensed by the insurers and replaced my wheels with a bike that’s slightly superior.

I have a few routes near home but I really like this one. It’s around 21 miles duration and takes in no less than six villages and passes a whopping ten pubs along its winding way. I seldom, if ever, prop my bike outside any of these pubs, apart from on the way back at the Nag’s Head but I have often done a mental pub-crawl in my head! Just recently I’ve taken to cycling from my home the extra 5-6 mile each way to Woodborough and back up and down a couple of monster hills to complete this distance. At least the view is pretty whizzing down the steep slopes of Bank Hill – even on a hazily sunny day.

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A right turn at the junction on the Dover Beck-lined Woodborough Main Street takes us presently past the Four Bells public house, so called after the number of bells in St Swithun’s church which stand diagonally opposite on Main Street.

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The Four Bells, Woodborough

The wheels keep rolling through the village and past the afore-mentioned Nag’s Head in the pretty and historic village of Woodborough, Notts. I’ve written about my liking for this place before so I’ll leave it there as I work through the gears down Lowdham Lane and off around the pretty Trent villages.

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The Nag’s Head, Woodborough

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Lowdham Lane

There are few images of the Springfield Inn at Lowdham to commend it which is a shame. Here’s one I took anyway. This place is a bit of a curiosity I always feel in that, for me, it’s nearer Woodborough and certainly not within either that village or it’s address of Lowdham, rather sitting quietly off the old Epperstone Road. It’s a popular chain-run place these days though not unpleasant for all that. I remember as a teenager though when it was but a fraction of the size and a beautiful cosy pub before anyone had coined the phrase ‘chain eating place’.

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The Springfield Inn, Lowdham

In practice, my little bike ride runs past the fourth pub on its journey in the World’s End at Lowdham Grange. Such a lovely rural hostelry with it’s still-remaining open fireplace a welcoming spot in the local countryside after a winter’s day walking. I really can’t comment the World’s End highly enough.

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The World’s End, Lowdham

We move on however and it’s down the interesting main street in Lowdham village. The Ship Inn is an old-fashioned country pub in the centre of a popular village, traditional and welcoming, it feels like a home from home. When summer comes it’s possible to tether your bike outside and enjoy the quiet life that is Lowdham Main Street in the afternoon sun. Who wouldn’t want to? The annual Lowdham Book Festival is based opposite during every June. A marvellous and well-respected event for such a relatively small community

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The Ship Inn, LowdhamPressing on through the attractive village of Lowdham we come to the Magna Charta on the crossroads of the Southwell Road. The Magna’s main claim to past fame was a well-known figure in the shape of former England centre-forward, Tommy Lawton. These days, like many pubs, much of the floor space has been dedicated to eaters and in the case of the Lowdham hostelry this has actually improved things a little. Further down the main street and we pass by The Railway Hotel, a place seldom frequented by me but a popular spot. Presently, the quaint crossings of the Nottingham to Newark railway and Lowdham’s station are in sight before a left turn down to rural little Caythorpe village.

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The Magna Carta, Lowdham

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The Railway Hotel, Lowdham

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Lowdham Station

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The quiet village of Caythorpe is nicely situated across a few fields from the River Trent. It features two pubs and but a few homes. The old telephone box on the main street has taken part in the pleasing new custom of becoming a book exchange where people leave their reading material to swap with other residents, a fine use of these old British symbols.

The first pub we reach is The Old Volunteer, much removed from it’s long former days as something of a biker hang-out. It’s now a popular bistro/pub.

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The Old Volunteer, Caythorpe

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Main Street, Caythorpe

The quiet village of Caythorpe is nicely situated across a few fields from the River Trent. It features two pubs and but a few homes. The old telephone box on the main street has taken part in the pleasing new custom of becoming a book exchange where people leave their reading material to swap with other residents, a fine use of these old British symbols.

The first pub we reach is The Old Volunteer, much removed from it’s long former days years ago as something of a biker hang-out. It’s now a popular bistro/pub.

The Black Horse as well as being a lovely, homely small inn also has a story to tell. The name is derived from infamous outlaw Dick Turpin’s horse, Black Bess. Local legend claims that Dick would avoid pursuing Peelers by hiding away in a small room-cum-cupboard in the pub, after fording the River Trent on Bess. I can recommend the Black Horse as one of the most lovely country pubs in Nottinghamshire, though sometimes a little difficult to find open due to restricted opening hours in the day.

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The Black Horse, Caythorpe

Perhaps the most striking part of the ride is when the route meets the Trent near Hoveringham village. Pictured below is what remains of The Old Elm Tree pub which bit the dust in my youth and has long been converted into homes. It’s a great spot and with a parking lay by overlooking the water nearby, very popular with walkers and other visitors. Also nearby, Ferry Farm animal park is a pleasant visit for families. The spot, with its proximity to the river has been subject to flooding several times in the past and it is not that unusual to see water across the road some winters.

I like to park my bike up awhile on the river bank here and take a break, a drink or a sandwich as the Trent rolls contentedly by on its way to its Humberside estuary.

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The Old Elm Tree building, Hoveringham

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View of beautiful Hoveringham Pastures as we leave the river

The route skirts along Hoveringham village which is best known for it’s gravel pits which have been converted into lakes, in some cases for sailing on. Indeed, a sailing club has long been situated here. One of my favourite pastimes has become picking seasonal mushrooms from the pastures by the nearby river. The Reindeer Inn in the village is such a perfect summer pub with it’s serving hatch out to the garden which overlooks the cricket pitch. Come here in winter too as you’ll find a roaring log fire and fine food under the low beamed ceilings.

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The Reindeer Inn, Hoveringham

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Hoveringham

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Former gravel pits, Hoveringham

We pass over an atmospheric little halt on the Nottingham to Newark railway line. Look left for Lowdham and right for Fiskerton. One of the few flirtations with a main road comes shortly with a hop of a few yards over into the tiny hamlet of Gonalston.

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Although petite in size, Gonalston has one or two memorable sights, not least the original forge pictured below with it’s tell-tale horseshoe-shaped brickwork over the door. A little known fact about this hidden corner of Nottinghamshire is that the old mill, now converted to an impressive private residence, was home to a certain Robert Blincoe who was sold into child labour and transported from St. Pancras in London to work in what has variously been called Lowdham, Gonalston or Cliff Mill in Gonalston. Interesting enough alone you might agree but this young man’s story is reputed to be the inspiration for Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist no less.

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The Old Forge, Gonalston

A pleasant narrow lane of just under two miles takes us up to the next village of Epperstone, once the headquarters of the Nottinghamshire police in it’s old hall, but no longer. In my humble opinion this is one of Nottinghamshire’s most attractive and unspoilt villages. Up in the hills between Epperstone and neighbouring Thurgarton, remains of a Roman villa have been found and additionally, a historic sheep wash that is well worth a visit. You can read some fascinating information about the latter here.

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The Cross Keys, Epperstone

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Main Street, Epperstone

We head back to Woodborough via Shelt Hill. In times past there may have been up to a dozen inns and coaching houses in the village and undoubtedly Shelt Hill would have housed at least one of them. The below is a welcoming sight on a hot day cycling, running or walking as it indicates that the relief of the delightful back garden of the Nag’s Head is only minutes away!

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Shelt Hill, Woodborough

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Rear of the Nag’s Head, Woodborough

Let’s not be churlish and turn away the chance of a cooling pint on the grass behind the Nag’s! I like to stop here though in truth, the hardest little bit of my journey home is yet to appear on the horizon with the coming of the ascent of Bank Hill. Best to change the horses now then…

I hope you’ve enjoyed accompanying me on my little Nottinghamshire cycling tour and that it inspires you to explore some of my little part of the world one day.

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June 6, 2012 - Posted by | On The Road | , , , , ,

15 Comments »

  1. Takes me back 50 years,enjoyed cycling through these villages,as a 13/14 teenager.
    Did you have a pint in all 12 pubs on your tour?

    Comment by Bryan Murray | June 6, 2012

  2. I wish Bryan! You have just put a thought in my head though! 🙂

    It’s a good man that cycles past them!

    Comment by Stuart | June 6, 2012

  3. Memories!

    Comment by Compo | June 18, 2012

  4. Memories! I used to ride a bike but it was taken.

    Comment by christine jackson straw | June 19, 2012

  5. Thanks Christine and Compo.

    There’s something about the pace of a bike that lends itself to observing all around you.

    Comment by Stuart | June 19, 2012

  6. Sorry but I’m not with you on that Stuart; riding a bike surely means using one’s common sense and adhering to Road Safety – at all times.

    Comment by christine jackson straw | June 20, 2012

  7. Does that not entail observing all around you?

    Comment by Stuart | June 20, 2012

  8. Ya can’t observe all around ya lad, with yer hands on yer handlebars and travellin’ at a breakneck speed down some of those gradual inclines and dangerous corners, you’re bound to come across out in the sticks.

    Comment by christine jackson straw | June 21, 2012

  9. Who mentioned breakneck speed? I have brakes for that kind of thing.

    The roads I cycle on have few cars.

    You do know also that you’re allowed to get off the bike and take a look at things don’t you?

    Let’s agree to differ.

    Comment by Stuart | June 21, 2012

  10. It would seem that Ms Jackson was not a touring cyclist back in her day.
    We are talking about a ‘push bike’ meduck, not a 650 Triumph.

    Comment by Bryan Murray | June 29, 2012

  11. I’m going to keep one foot on the ground in future!

    Comment by Stuart | June 29, 2012

  12. ‘I’m going to keep one foot on the ground in future!’:
    A sad decision Stuart, especially when you’ve taken some lovely countryside photographs, inspiring people to get out on their bikes and explore their local landscape.
    Ms Jackson Straw

    Comment by christine jackson straw | July 1, 2012

  13. It’s a joke, Christine.

    Comment by Stuart | July 1, 2012

  14. TOC Really enjoyed (born Gunthorpe 1923) knew all the villages,and pups had a pint in all!
    Pleased that not a lot about the Trent Valley has changed little.
    Many thanks for the update.
    Ken Allen

    Comment by Kenneth Allen | October 4, 2012

  15. You’re welcome, Ken! 🙂

    Gunthorpe is a really nice place to come from.

    Comment by Stuart | October 4, 2012


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